A two-hour GOP primary debate Tuesday night saw Donald Trump forced to defend his proposal to deport 11 million undocumented immigrants and also revealed several attack lines against Democrat candidate Hillary Clinton, who was mentioned 25 times.
Kyle Kondik, political expert at University of Virginia Center for Politics, explains what we learned from the debate and what to expect in the future.
Q: Who performed well during this debate?
– This was a status quo debate. The candidates who have been getting positive attention in recent weeks, like Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida and Ted Cruz of Texas, seemed to be well-received. Donald Trump and Ben Carson were their familiar quirky selves. They probably are not built to last in this contest but they didn’t hurt themselves all that much at the debate.
Q: Who failed to perform?
– Ohio governor John Kasich is trying to position himself as the adult in the room and as the most centrist candidate in the race. This is a common strategy because it’s designed to appeal to voters in New Hampshire, which is the second nominating contest after Iowa and has a fairly moderate electorate. But in trying to move toward the middle, Kasich risks alienating the mainstream of his party, which is conservative. Even if he ultimately does well in New Hampshire it’s hard to see much of a path for him after that state. Former Florida governor Jeb Bush also has failed to impress at any of these debates.
Q: What about Trump’s immigration plan?
– Deporting 12 million people is practically impossible and would be a catastrophically bad blow to the United States’ image abroad, not to mention a human tragedy of immense proportions. Trump is just telling many Republicans what they want to hear.
Q: Hillary Clinton’s name appeared during the debate more than 25 times. Why so?
– Clinton is a hated figure amongst Republicans. Attacking her is an easy way for these candidates to score points. Given how big of a favorite she is, the Republicans can almost treat her like an incumbent and sell themselves as the best candidate to face her next fall.
Q: What’s next in the election race?
– There’s only one more Republican debate this calendar year. We’re headed into the holiday season here in the United States, with Thanksgiving at the end of November and then Christmas and New Year’s at the end of December. The race may fade in importance during the holidays and then come roaring back in January. The actual voting starts in February and last through June, so there’s still a long way to go.